08 July 2016

sunshine and shell stitches

Ahoy hoy. I finally finished one of those side projects that I started back in May, and figured you might like to see it. This summers weather may be a bit all over the place, but I'm trying to brighten up the day with this sunshine shell stitch cardigan.
I started this cardigan when we went on holiday, and I've just kinda been making it up and working on it when I have a little spare time (not a lot of that at the moment). It's made with 'Stylecraft Special dk', and the 'special' bit does give it that little extra softness so it's not itchy to wear but also feels strong and hardy.
It's made entirely from 5tr shell stitches (and all the increases and decreases are incorporated within shells), and it gives it a surprisingly nice texture. This shade of 'sunshine' yellow seems to have been very fashionable recently....for women, I've not been able to find anything in this colour for men, so I figured I'd make something for myself.
I added some black buttons to give it a bit of contrast, but I rarely button up cardigans anyway so they're there for mostly aesthetic reasons (plus it's a little tight when done up).
I have done my usual thing, of writing notes with the intention that one day it can become a pattern, but it'll take a bit of work. Although I was happy with the way I worked out increases and decreases with shells, I made a few errors with sizing, but overall it fits me fine.
I've also been undergoing physiotherapy whilst making this cardigan as I've had a trapped nerve in my crochet arm (also doesn't help that I'm as weak as a kitten), but this has actually been quite a relaxing project. Sometimes I think the best crochet projects are the ones that are very repetitive and allow you to almost enter a meditative state.

But you'll be glad to know the therapy is really helping and I've got some hardcore crochet projects to get started on soon. Until then, peace out x

01 July 2016

Deramores Review & Free Crochet Tote Bag Pattern

Ahoy hoy. So, time for something a little bit different. Recently the lovely folks at Deramores got in touch with me. If you’re not familiar with Deramores they’re an awesome online knitting and crochet store with one of the biggest ranges of yarns and patterns in the UK. As well as stocking most of the big name yarn brands, they also do a good amount of their own brand yarn, and they kindly sent me some of this to review.
I didn’t know exactly how much yarn they were going to send me, so when I got this huge package in the post I was pretty chuffed. First out of the packet was their Vintage Chunky yarn. It's a 50/50 blend of Merino and acrylic. They sent me 3 suitable muted vintage colours, and it looks really nice. You can tell from the touch that it's a blended yarn, and its got a nice twist to it too. I was wondering what I could make with it, and then I remembered there was more to look at.
I delved further into the package and found another package inside. It contained one of their Studio DK multi colour packs. Deramores have a really good range of colour packs on their site, going from this small one to larger ones that will fulfill your needs for specific patterns. Straight away I was impressed with the colours in the small pack, they’re all bold and vibrant.

I couldn’t wait to get started having a play with it. TheDeramores own brand yarn is in fact winner of ‘Best Independent Yarn Brand’ at the British Knitting Awards for the last 3 years running, and as soon as it was in my hands I could see why. Now those of you who regularly follow my shenanigans will know that I’m a big fan of acrylic yarn. I love real wool too but when it comes down to the crunch I’m an acrylic man. There’s still a bit of snobbery towards synthetic yarns which harks back to the bad old days of cheap and nasty yarns, but in reality acrylic has come a long way. The Deramores studio yarn is actually one of the softest (if not the softest) acrylic yarns I’ve come across. At first touch you can tell it's soft, but first touches can often be deceiving. The proof came when working the yarn. Over the last week my cuticles have been torn to shreds, and because of the way I wrap yarn around my fingers, I expected it to get worse and be bleeding and getting the plasters out in no time. Fortunately I was wrong; the yarn felt lovely and soft against my fingers and didn’t aggravate my skin at all, they claim its soft enough for babies and I can agree with that - an impressive start.
I decided to try making a basic shape out of each of the different colours, to test it out a bit. I’ve got a lot of experience with acrylics, and a problem I’ve come across before is thicknesses. You can often have two different coloured DK yarns of the same brand and by the same manufacturer, but when you start working you notice one works out ever so slightly thicker/bigger than the other. This appears to be to do with the dyeing and colour process, and can happen across many different types of yarn. Normally it’s so slight that it’s not a huge problem, but if you’re doing anything patchwork related it can really throw you off size-wise. Again, I found the Deramores yarn impressive in this factor, there was little discernable difference, if any.
 In terms of quality the yarn was very good. Through each ball I found it to be very even and consistent. There is nothing that annoys me more (well, there is in the grander scheme of things) than when you get halfway through a ball of yarn and find a knot in the middle – you’ll be glad to hear there was none of that nonsense. Now, the yarn label also describes it as ‘anti-pilling’, I’ll be honest - I had to look up what this meant. Basically it means that you won’t get those annoying bobbles after washing (this is to do with the way the fibres are constructed). Oddly, I noticed the effects of this with the white and raspberry coloured yarns only, when working them you can get a little bit of fluff coming off, but nothing enough to be of concern and when the yarn is worked it doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Finally, and possibly the most important factors for some, price and range of colours. The Studio DK range comes in 33 different shades and you can get the packs in a variety of amounts and colour combinations. This small Studio DK pack comes in at £10.99, and if you want to buy the balls individually it’s £1.99, which I feel is more than a fair price for such a quality product – I’ve paid about that for some real cheap and nasty yarns in the past so I’d definitely use these again. Overall I was very impressed with the yarn, and I’m not just saying that cos this is a review, I honestly don’t have a bad word to say about it.
Now, so that I could give the yarn a proper review I made a shape out of each colour, but you know what I’m like, that’s just not enough, we can’t let those shapes go to waste now can we? That’s right, it’s free pattern time! I’m going to try and start making more patterns, and I haven’t done any of that for a while so wanted to get a bit of practice. I also felt like I hadn’t given you loyal readers anything for a while either. I figured I'd write you a simple pattern, but then I thought you might like a bit of variation, so you have two sides to choose from. It should be easy enough and gives you some creative choices, so I hope you enjoy!

You will need:
DeramoresStudio DK Multi Colour Pack (6 x 100g, 250m, 100% acrylic) containing the following shades: 
Citrine [YELLOW], Heather [PURPLE], Raspberry [RED], Lapis [BLUE], Frost [WHITE] and Malachite [GREEN]. 
3.5mm hook
Stitch markers
Wool needle


*Note, when fastening off always leave a tail of about a foot long to help you with the assembly – alternatively you could use a needle and cotton thread if you so desire*
Side 1:
Main shape: (make in 3 in red, 3 in white, 3 in green, 3 in yellow, 2 in blue, 2 in purple)
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-6: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 7: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (16dc & 9ch)
Row 8: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts [leaving remaining 8dc unworked] turn. (16dc)
Row 9-14: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Fasten off.
*if you need help understanding Rows 7 & 8 see image at bottom of side 2 instructions* 

Small square shape: (make 3 in yellow, 3 in purple)
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (8dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (8dc)
Fasten off

Small rectangle shape: (2 in blue, 2 in purple)
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (16dc)
Fasten off

Backwards L shape (make 3 in green)
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 8: ch1, dc in next 8 sts (leaving remains 8 sts unworked), turn. (8dc)
Row 9 -14: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (8dc)

Upside-down L shape (make 3 in blue)
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (8dc)
Row 2-6: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (8dc)
Row 7: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (8dc & 9ch)
Row 8: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts, turn. (16dc)
Row 9 -14: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Fasten off
 Side 2:
Main shape: (make 3 in red, 3 in green, 3 in yellow, 3 in purple)
Ch 17
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-6: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 7: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (16dc & 9ch)
Row 8: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts [leaving remaining 8dc unworked] turn. (16dc)
Row 9-13: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 14: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (16dc & 9ch)
Row 15: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts [leaving remaining 8dc unworked] turn. (16dc)
Row 16-21: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc).
Fasten off.

C-Shape: (Make 1 in red, 1 in green)
Ch 17
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 8: ch1, dc in next 8 sts [leaving remains 8 sts unworked], turn. (8dc)
Row 9-13: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (8dc)
Row 14: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (8dc & 9ch)
Row 15: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts, turn. (16dc)
Row 16-21: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (16dc)
Fasten off

Small square shape: (make 1 in red, 1 in green, 2 in yellow, 2 in purple)
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (8dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (8dc)
Fasten off
Illustration of Side 2 Main Piece, Rows 7-8 apply to Side 1 Main piece too
Lay all your shapes out beforehand so you don’t get confused with your colours. With the wrong sides of the shapes facing you, whip stitch 2 shapes together with the tails, being careful to have your stitches showing only on the wrong side. You may find it helps to join the shapes together with safety pins/stitch markers before sewing. If you find yourself unsure of where exactly to sew/join shapes, remember that horizontally it is always divisible by 8 and vertically is always divisible by 7. Weave in all ends.


With RS of Side 1 facing, join raspberry yarn in to far right hand stitch of top edge with ss, ch1 and dc across. Fasten off (64dc)
Repeat on side 2, DO NOT FASTEN OFF.
*now is a good time to place some stitch markers to help you get the edging accurate, put at least one in each corner connecting the two sides together*

With both sides against each other (and both with RS facing outwards), ch1, dc down the side edge (connecting both sides), being as even with your stitches as possible (you should have roughly 84sts), ch2 when you reach the bottom corner, then dc along bottom edge of both sides (roughly 64sts), ch2 in the next corner, then dc back up the opposite side (roughly 84sts). Fasten off and weave in all ends.

Straps (make 2)
Using Red, ch101
Row 1 (RS): dc in 2nd ch from hook and each st across. Fasten off. (100dc)
Join Yellow with ss into 1st st of row 1,
Row2 (RS): ch 1, dc across. Fasten off (100dc)

Sew one end of strap to stitches 21 & 22 of top edge of one side of bag, and sew other end of strap to stitches 43 & 44 on same edge. Repeat with second strap on other side of bag. Weave in all ends

There you go, all finished. Have fun, Peace out!

[The Transparency Bit - Deramores kindly supplied me with the yarn to review and make this pattern with for free, but I have not been paid to review these products. All opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Deramores.]

[The Legal Bit -  I am happy for you to print this pattern for yourself, and I do not mind if you want to use it at crochet classes or groups. I retain copyright. I only ask that you do not sell works made from this pattern, and do not publish or replicate on any other websites or publications without prior permission - linking to the pattern/my blog is fine. Basically, I don't copy, neither should you!]

13 June 2016

Briswool 2016

Hello there. I've been out and about yet again (I do still crochet honest!). On Saturday I headed over the bridge to catch the last weekend of Briswool.
Briswool is a project started/organised by Vicky Harrison of Bristol's The Paper Village. I first encountered Vicky a couple of years back when I stumbled upon her amazing shop, which is just around the corner from my best mates house. She's an amazing woman whose passion for crafts just pours out. As soon as she let me know that Briswool was having a major exhibition I knew I would end up going......now prepare to have your mind blown!
Briswool is basically a community project that Vicky organised where members of the public and the Paper Village staff (including Vicky herself) knitted or crocheted iconic buildings or features of the Bristol landscape.
Vicky is the creative genius that, as well as organising the project, assembled it into one cohesive installation. She also ran many workshops and provided inspiration so that knitters and crocheters of all skill levels could help contribute towards the project. The level of detail was incredible, and from first glance you can only wonder at the amount of time it must have taken to put it all together.
One of the things that really impressed me was when you looked at some of the more famous Bristol landmarks like the Clifton suspension bridge or the row of colourful houses (they probably have a specific name). As impressive as they are by themselves, you also can't help but notice all the work that went into things like the trees, the patchwork grass, and the sculptural elements that accentuate the hill and the gorge.
In fact the level of detail over the whole project was spectacular. The boats, cars and hot air balloons were so unbelievably cute. The smallest touches were often what really spoke to people. I talked to my friend who had also seen the exhibition, and he also commented that the little cars and bikes were some of his favourite parts. There was also lots of 'in-jokes' and special touches for the locals, such as the Bristol crocodile, the whale, a Gromit statue and the graffiti Bee, to name just a few.
Being a community project, Vicky also did an excellent job at appealing to the wider public, not just to us craft geeks. There was a specific area to sit and knit and crochet, a sample board where you could touch certain pieces of work (which was very popular with kids), a collection of pieces that hadn't made it into the final landscape, and a huge balloon-themed comment board. You could see from the general crowd that was going to see the exhibition that it had something to offer to all kinds of people.
Even some of the buildings which, when you think about it, could quite easily have been kept relatively simple, were embellished with such intricacy that you could spend ages looking at each one. You would be looking and then all of a sudden spot the tiny Bristol zoo sign, or the delicately embroidered numbers on the clock face.
There was something about the house above in particular that really impressed me. I struggle to put my finger on what it is exactly, but to me everything about it just seems so perfect.
Briswool appears to have been an amazing success by all accounts. Vicky, her team, and all those who contributed should truly be proud of themselves. I'm sure we'll see many more huge creative projects from Vicky in the future, but it'll certainly be hard to top this. My photo's can't even do the scale of this project justice, it really was a mammoth piece of work. Vicky - I raise my glass to you!

Oooooh, but now it's done, who knows if and when it'll see light again. Well, if you're after another reason to head to Bristol (not that you need a reason, it's an awesome city and you can always head over to The Paper Village and support Vicky and her team by buying some crafty goodness or doing a workshop), there is also another really interesting exhibition on at the moment.

Art From Elsewhere is an exhibition showing the work of 32 artists from 22 countries and is being shown in The Arnolfini and The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
'Sleeper 2, 3 & 4' C-print photographs by Yto Barrada (b.1971, Paris)
The exhibition describes itself as 'addressing life, politics and identity in a globalised society'. Personally I found it to be a really interesting mix of different styles of work with varying strengths of messages. 
'A Ton of Tea, 2007' Compressed Pu-erh tea by Ai Wei Wei (b. 1957, Beijing)
The Exhibition is on until 17th July and I'd thoroughly recommend checking it out. I really enjoyed going across to both galleries and having a full day out getting my wool and art fix....of course followed by a night out in the pubs!

That should be enough to keep you going for now, until next time....peace out! x

02 June 2016

Art car bootique - Chapter - Cardiff

Hey hey hey. I've been out and about again, this time in my own city of Cardiff. There's a very well known gallery and art space called Chapter in the city, and they were holding an event called the art car bootique. I've managed to miss it last year but decided we'd make the effort, cross the city to 'the other side of the river', and see what it was all about.

There was also the last day of a beer festival going on at chapter, so the first thing we did was grab a nice pint, then out to the back to see what was going on.

The place was full of people but everyone seemed it good spirits. There was plenty of food, music, craft stalls and general arty shenanigans going on. What was really nice is that there was lots of local makers and creative types, and the whole place had very much a village fete/carnival feel to it. There was even some crochet to be seen, so I figured I better show you that!

My first fellow Cardiff crocheter is Becci Holmes, otherwise known as In Rainbows. I love this orange segment necklace.

Becci's really going for the cute amigurmi look, and seems to be doing well at it. As well as lots of little items such as jewellery or 'car buddies', she also does larger items like these playful crochet taxidermy heads - I'm lovin that bee!

My second fellow Cardiff crocheter is Elen Angharad. Elen had a stall selling these crocheted plant pot covers, which although simple are very effective.

I had a really nice chat with her (gotta love it when I first meet people and they excitedly say 'you're the crochet man!'), and checking her website she's obviously one to watch, she even has a knitted tie tutorial in this months Mollie Makes.

And finally, it's not crochet and I have featured her before, but I just love the work of Stephanie Duckett Ceramics so much that I had to feature her again.

I first came across Stephanie at the outlaw craft fair in bristol where I bought one of her necklaces. There's something about the minimalism of her work which allows the materials to become the main feature, and that really appeals to me.

I spotted she even had a little bargain box on her stall and couldn't resist buying this little bunny necklace for myself.

So yeah they're my main three makers of the event. As I mentioned there was quite a lot of food stalls (I had some excellent pizza), and the 'car bootique' part was there as well in that there was a lot of vintage clothes stalls. Not much of that appealed to me, then right at the last minute, this blanket caught my eye.

Super colourful, full of patterns, really big, and only a fiver - go on then. Plus if you turn it over....

....you get a completely different effect. Right up my street! So overall we had a great day out, it was ridiculously hot out that day, and there was a certain Mr Izzard due to do a talk which we did want to stick around for, but heat and midday drinking aren't always the best of friends, so we headed home early for an afternoon nap.

until next time, mine's a pint and peace out! x

30 May 2016

Holiday time!

Ahoy hoy. You know when everything just seems to get a bit too much - you need a break - you need to relax - you need some sun. Well that's how I've been feeling, so me and the lovely wife booked a last minute holiday and jetted off to Croatia.

Croatia is a really beautiful country, it's full of huge mountains and lush green countryside, as well as crystal clear sea water. We went on an all inclusive deal so it meant we really could just relax and not worry about anything, and eating our evening meals on a balcony with views like this and dolphins swimming past certainly helped.

But hang on, this isn't anything to do with craft or crochet? You can't just come here showing off your holiday pics! Don't worry, we'll get to it!

So, whilst on holiday, we also went on a day trip over to Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically to the city of Mostar.

The Stari Most bridge is the main pull to this area that is a real tourist hotspot. I'm not gonna pretend to be fully versed on all the history (as it's pretty complex), but basically the bridge dated back to the Ottoman empire, but was destroyed during the war in 1993. It was rebuilt in 2004 using many of the techniques used in the original construction.

Although the bridge was rebuilt there are visible reminders of the war everywhere. As soon as you start walking around the city you notice that there are bullet holes everywhere.

Obviously I found the history fascinating, but another reason I was interested to see Mostar is because it's a real mix of cultures, with a rich mix of Christian and Muslim people and architecture, but also with heavy Turkish (from the Ottoman Empire) and Mediterranean influences.

The tour guide took us around to a few tourist sites, like into a mosque that was clearly not used by practicing Muslims anymore but purely for tourists to take pictures in - it had nice carpets though.

We were also taken into a 'traditional Turkish home' - another tourist trap, but I did spot this ancient wool winder next to a rather decrepit looking 'machine for making carpets' - that's a loom to you and me! It had a carpet thrown over it and I could see it wasn't set up underneath, but I did find this other little loom tucked away in a corner.

Anyway, (you can see the craft coming in now can't you), finally we were able to ditch the tour guide and explore perhaps one of the biggest reasons for visiting Mostar - the bazaar! The lovely wife was getting a bit too hot, so we stopped in at a bar so we could get some shade and I could have a massive beer, and then, on with the shopping!

The bazaar was quite intriguing, there was a lot of tourist tat, and lots of the stalls/shops had exactly the same tat, so it all started to blur into one. What was really odd was that it wasn't somewhere where you needed to haggle (everything was dirt cheap anyway), but there was a bit of pressure. If you even stopped to look at something someone was standing there next to you trying to show you more within a second. We didn't let this stop us though and pushed on through.

I spotted one stall in particular that sold loads of crochet items and instantly thought of all you lovely followers.

Most of it was very delicate work done with cotton. There was a crudely written sign saying 'hand made in Mostar', which for some reason I did think believable, but who knows. It was the only stall selling anything like it so I would like to think it was genuine.

There was some other crochet I saw, but couldn't really photograph. On the walk into the city we walked past the odd lady that was selling crocheted tablecloths. It wasn't like they had a stall, this was a side of the road job. It looked like well done filet crochet, and I wondered to myself if they had personally made it themselves - the cynic in me doubts it.

Anyway, like I say there was loads of stuff to keep me busy in the bazaar. It was difficult to tell what was genuinely made in the area and what was reproductions, but the one thing I did notice was the odd wall that had rugs thrown over it, with no prices. Something made me suspect that maybe these were more legit, but I couldn't tell - either way they're pretty.

I was getting a bit confused with money and the exchange rate, but everything was so cheap that it wasn't too much of a big deal. I got a couple of scarfs/pashmina's, a bowl, a hat and some earings for the lovely wife...and still I don't think it came to any more than £15!

So there you go, we got to the craft stuff eventually. We had a really nice holiday, I drank lots of beer and ate far too much food, and I even swam in the sea (something of a rarity for me). Back to normality for now though, until next time.....

....peace out y'all!